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Tourist Places To Visit In South India
India is a land of many rivers and many more landscapes. Its varied mountains, plains, highlands and seascapes make for one hell of a joyride when it comes to exploring this ages old civilisation. For most tourists seeking to gauge a holiday plan in India, there are two main divisions they see, namely, North India and South India. While the Northern part of India is explored in another article linked below, South India is something that deserves accolades here for its plethora of backwaters, coasts, temples, rivers, ruins and a climate that is endurable for one and sundry. We take you through some of the most trending tourist places to visit when in South India, including some gems like Kerala, Pondicherry, Hampi, Goa, Mysore etc, with hill stations like Coorg and Ooty for some cool time.
Kerala, a soothing paradise in the south-western part of India is a coastal state kissing the Arabian Sea shore. Renowned world over for its backwaters and Ayurvedic massages, this state becomes a coveted tourist destination for Indian as well as foreign travellers. You can visit some of the most beautiful backwater destinations like Alapuzha, idyllic beach destinations like Kozhikode, and Kollam, leisure getaways like Wayanad, Periyar National Park and Bandipur National Park. Kochi is one of the major hubs of Kerala and doubles up as a massive tourist attraction for its colonial charm and ages old forts. You must also visit Thiruvananthapuram for its temples, palaces and museums and Kumarakom for its slow village life and bird sanctuaries.
In every sense, Kerala is really God’s own country. The best time to visit Kerala is from October-April.
A Union Territory in the country of India, Goa is an old Portuguese colony that became a popular beach destination after it was abandoned by its colonisers in the mid 1900s. Most foreign visitors still do equate India with Goa, such a great spot it is for leisurely beach babies. Visit Panaji, the capital of Goa, for its colonial buildings and heritage walks, Anjuna for its stretch of beaches, flea markets and chapels like the St. Anthony’s Chapel. Arambol becomes a hub for yogis and adventure junkies, with its famous paragliding sport. Other places to look forward to include Old Goa, Calangute, Palolem Beach, Morjim, Vasco Da Gama and the romantic getaway of Dona Paula.
October to May is the tourist season in Goa, with pleasant temperatures and lots of dry, sunny days.
Hampi & Badami
Hampi is an ancient village in Karnataka, dotted with ruins of temples and forts of the Vijayanagar Empire. Situated on the banks of River Tungabhadra, this village is today a coveted tourist attraction, not only for the ruins of ancient temples but for the sheer history that breathes in its air. Take a tour of the Virupaksha Temple that dates back to the 7th Century. There is also the Achyutaraya temple and Vijaya Vitthala, both places of worship with ruins from another century. Anjaneya Hill is another famous tourist attraction because it is the place where Lord Hanuman was born. You can also take a boat ride in the red-river that is Tungabhadra, known so because of the reddish bedrock.
Badami is another ancient lap of ruins, erstwhile called Vatapi. Situated in North Karnataka, Badami boasts of cave temples cut out of sandstone rocks on the bank of Agastya Lake. These temples are dedicated to Hindu Gods like Natraj and Vishnu, one of them to Jains as well. While in Badami, visit these Badami Cave Temples, the Bhuthanatha group of Temples, Banashankari Temple, Mahakuteshwara Temple and Ravan Pahad (named after the mythological demon king Ravan). Recently, the Indian Government has declared Badami as a heritage city in India.
Pondicherry is a hippie’s paradise, as well as a leisure holiday spot for the ones looking for a quaint getaway into something otherworldly. With its French charm intact since its French coloniser days, small Indian gullies, mural-painted walls and cute pastel-coloured cafes, Pondicherry forms a quiet destination for some good food, great walks and sea-side shenanigans. You must visit Auroville, an experimental town near Pondicherry where people of many nationalities live together and have tried to create what can be called a global community. Explore the many churches like Hallelujah Assembly of God Church, Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Zion Methodist. Chill by the Rock Beach, Promenade Beach and eat at some of the cutest quiet cafes like Baker Street, Cafe des Arts and Satsang. The French fare here is delicious, as is Italian and Mediterranean.
Mysore is a beautiful city built atop a plateau, home to royal palaces and lush landscapes. It becomes a popular tourist attraction for its temples like the Chamundeshwari Temple, Brindavan Gardens with terraced greens and great fountain shows, as well as the Krishna Raja Sagara Dam, with its own lake, botanic park with gardens, boat rides and fountains. What Mysore is also renowned for are its palaces; like the great Mysore Palace that was beautifully built in the Indo-Saracenic style by 1912. Lalitha Mahal is another famous palace, the second largest in Mysore and built for the Viceroy of India. Today it doubles up a Royal Guest House. You must also visit the Mysore Zoo, Chamundi Hills and Jagmohan Palace for its museum of artefacts and paintings.
Coorg is also called the Scotland of India, for its highlands and coffee plantations, cold and rain and mud, as well as the perpetual mist that hangs in its air. It is a hill station in the Karnataka state of India, vastly thronged by tourists to escape the summer heat. Some of the coveted places to visit when in Coorg are Abbey and Iruppu Waterfalls, Nagarhole National Park for its offering of some exotic wild flora and fauna, Dubare Elephant Camp to see these majestic creatures in their habitat, Raja’s Seat and the many coffee and pepper plantations. Madikeri Fort, Omkareshwar Temple and Raja’s Tomb are other sightseeing spots worth paying a visit to. But we suggest you take your time in Coorg very seriously in relaxing and pampering yourself amid the lap of nature.
Ooty is like a swimming pool of tea leaves, such is the vastness of its tea estates. Another coveted hill station in the south, Ooty lies in the hills of Tamil Nadu, thick with the fragrance of tea and mud. The central lake Ooty is a huge manmade waterbody, supplying scenic value to this already marvellous place. While it is a destination majorly to escape summer heat, Ooty is mostly frequented all year round. Some of the best places to visit while in Ooty include the Pykara Lake for its ample picnicking spots and boating opportunities, The Glen Morgan Tea Estates, Toda temple in Toda Hamlet and the Doddabetta Peak for its awesome views. A ride in the Nilgiri Toy Train is also must. You can also visit the Government Botanical Garden for its vast species of plants, shrubs, and trees featuring an Italian style of gardening. There is also the St. Stephen’s Church and the Government Rose Garden.
The city made immortal in the poem ‘A River’ by A. K. Ramanujan, Madurai is what history of the south is made up of - temples and threads of fine stories of kings and kingdoms. It is the second largest city of Tamil Nadu and boasts of a history more than 3500 years old. It is also often called the ‘Athens of the East.’ Today, this city of ‘temples and poets’ attracts tourists as well as pilgrims in its seamless lap. While in Madurai, you must visit the famous Meenakshi Temple, built around the Shiv Ling. You must also explore Puthu Mandapam, a 17th century pillared hall near Meenakshi Temple where sellers setup shops for fabrics, tailoring, jewellery, handicrafts and art work. The Tirumalai Nayak Palace near Meenakshi Temple is another great attraction, built in 1636 by King Thirumalai Nayak as his residential palace. Tour Saint Mary's Cathedral, the famous banana market where you can get upto 16 varieties of bananas and eat a scrumptious South Indian fare at Murugan Idli shop.
Literally meaning ‘he who is the Lord of Ram,’ this city was named after the anecdote of Ramayana when Lord Ram built a Shiv Ling from clay and accepted Lord Shiva as his Lord. It is a beautiful play of humility that two gods consider each other their masters. With such a rich tale biding its gates, Rameswaram is bound to be an amazing experience in history and mythology. A small district in Tamil Nadu, this place boasts of some great temples like Ramanathaswamy Temple, which is also one of the Char Dhams (4 major Pilgrim spots of India). Visit the Jada Tirtham or the sacred pond, where it is believed Lord Ram washed his hair before worshipping Lord Shiva’s Lingam. The Dhanushkodi temple, literally ‘end of the bow’ temple is also a major tourist attraction. Also don’t miss on the Five Faced Hanuman Temple and the fabled Ram Setu (Adam’s Bridge) that was built on the Indian Ocean by Lord Ram’s monkey army. It connects the Rameshwaram island of India to the north western shore of Sri Lanka, the fabled city of Demon King Ravan.
The southern tip of India, Kanyakumari literally translating to ‘the virgin girl’ comes from the name of Devi Kanyakumari Temple. It is a coastal town in Tamil Nadu and touches the Laccadive Sea, popular for its sunsets and sunrises over the Indian Ocean. When in Kanyakumari, you must visit Bagavathi Amman Temple of the consort of Shiva and Our Lady of Ransom Church, which is a hub of Indian Catholicism. The Vivekananda Rock Memorial is another attraction placed in Vavathurai. The Thirparappu Falls is a statue dedicated to poet Thiruvalluvar and brings peace and relaxation to one and sundry. This is a must visit, to unravel the man Thiruvalluvar, who was the author of the legendary Tirukkural, a classic Tamil text. There is also the Kumari Amman Temple and Kanyakumari beach to relax.
Mahabalipuram (also called Mamallapuram) is a city of temples, located just 60 km away from Chennai. It is splayed on the coast of Bay of Bengal and is a great tourist attraction for those who are pulled towards temples and old, ancient ruins. Mahabalipuram was one of the most flourishing ports during the rule of the Pallavas in South India. They carved an open air museum from stone and that became an enduring piece of tale to go with the town of Mahabalipuram. Visit the famous Shore Temple, an 8th Century architecture marvel with 3 distinct shrines. There is also the Panch Rathas or ‘five chariots’ sculpted out of stone, named after the five Pandav brothers of the Maharbharata. Also check our Arjun’s Penance, a beautiful intricate stone carving that is the world’s largest bas-relief. Do not miss Krishna’s Butter Ball, a famous granite rock boulder, balanced on a hill, that is a natural marvel.
Kabini is a small little settlement by the Kabini River, known for its luxurious resorts and proximity to the Nagarhole National Park. Most of its home stays, resorts and treehouses are perched around the river, giving every room some gorgeous views to wake up to. You can enjoy the history of the area which declares it as one of the prime locations of British hunts. Or you can go exploring the Kabini Reserve Forest which houses herds and herds of Asiatic Elephants and exotic birds along with leopards, tigers and guars. Kabini is not too far from Bangalore and hence a great escape when in South India.
India’s IT capital, Bangalore has been known for its IT and business hubs that have cropped up over the last 3 decades. Aside from this, the South Indian city of Bangalore is also known for its gardens, lakes and amiable weather almost all year round. Visit Bangalore at least once when you are in the south, if for nothing else then for its cute cafes and pubs and parks. The best ones include Lalbagh and Cubbon Park.
Erstwhile Madras, this city is one of the most significant in South India since time immemorial. It used to serve as the Madras Presidency during the Raj, and made for one of the most important ports. Now Chennai is perfect for a trip by the Bay of Bengal. Its Coromandel Coast is a mix of traditional as well as contemporary, with idlis as easily available by the shore as burgers. Visit its many museums, temples and South Indian restaurants. Buy sarees, gold jewellery and incenses. Also, do not miss the famous Marina Beach!
The city of Nizams and kebabs, Hyderabad is also renowned for its famous Char Minar. It has more old world charm than most other cities around it, imbibing the time of the yore even in its eateries, markets and monuments today, Its bazars are still noisy and exuberant, its roads still feeling old school even with swanky skyscrapers cropped up here and there. Do not leave here without gorging on their yummy Hyderabadi biryani, or Haleem. Go visit the Char Minar monument, Banjara Hills, shop for oxidised silver jewellery and other accessories from bazar stalls.
A brilliant hill station in South India, Munnar hides like a gem in the Western Ghats. Even though it is part of Kerala, Munnar deserves a separate mention for its individual holiday plans. They call it the Kashmir of the South, a land that is ripe with tea hills, waterfalls and endless stretches of nature’s green meadows. Go visit the rivers here, sit by Periavaru, picnic by Madupetti River, check into a cottage or treehouse. Visit Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Eravikulam National Park, Old Munnar and the tea plantations.
Araku Valley is that place in South India which is not very famous or put on the tourist circuit map. And that is why it is the kind of destination where you can enjoy some down time without the constant noise of tourists. Weekend getaways are the best in Araku, with its lush green meadows, horses and cattle chomping on fresh grass. It is 120 km from Vishakhapatnam, making for a scenic drive through green jungles and tunnels. The valley is nestled in eastern ghats, home to museums as well as meadows, coffee plantations as well as adventure sports.
Tirupati is a temple town in Andhra Pradesh. Located in Chittoor, Tirupati as a town was built around the temple of Lord Venkateshwara, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu who was cursed to live on this earth until he fulfilled the dowry of his beloved. Hence he lives on Tirumala Hill, and grants people’s wishes in exchange for the wealth they surrender to him to help him repay his debt and return to his abode. You can go for the darshan of the Lord, hear the continuous chants of Om Namo Venkatesaya in the premises, and visit both small temples and natural caves around.
Popularly known as Tanjore, Thanjavur is a city of beautiful temples and antiques, handicrafts and woven textiles, heritage and Carnatic music. Thanjavur hence is a very important religious city, as well as revered for its ancient art. You can visit the many galleries like Art Gallery, Siva Ganga Garden, Palace & Saraswathi Mahal Library. Do also visit the temples like Brihadeeswara Temple, palaces like Sangeetha Mahal, Thanjavur Maratha Palace etc, click many many photos, and soak in all that amazing architecture.
The Lakshadweep Island is a paradise of its own. Also called the Laccadive Islands back in the day, it was named Lakshadweep, meaning a hundred thousand islands after the British left India. Only a few of these hundred thousand islands are currently approved for tourist visitation, while the rest are inhabited by tribals who are not very happy to be connected to the rest of the world. But the islands that you can visit are nothing short of insane fun — from white sandy beaches to palm jungles, exotic birds to blue waters.
Andaman & Nicobar
Another set of islands that take your breath away in South India — Andaman Nicobar Islands are any day more welcoming than Lakshadweep. There are better developed island towns, more facilities and yet the same virgin seas and islands steeped in a colonial heritage. Visit Port Blair which was once an exile for Indian prisoners and freedom fighters. Find your way through some of the most beautiful tropical islands like Havelock, North Bay Island, Ross and Neil Island. Scuba diving, snorkelling, swimming and other adventure sports in the deep blue marine are also coveted here.